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U.S. Loses First Service Member Fighting ISIS in Syria

The United States suffered its first military casualty in Syria in the operation to defeat the Islamic State.

"I am deeply saddened by the news on this Thanksgiving Day that one of our brave servicemembers has been killed in Syria while protecting us from the evil of ISIL," Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in a statement. "It is a painful reminder of the dangers our men and women in uniform face around the world to keep us safe."

"Please keep this servicemember's family, friends and teammates in your thoughts and prayers, and this Thanksgiving I hope you will join me in expressing thanks to all of our dedicated troops who selflessly protect us every day," Carter added.

Operation Inherent Resolve said in a statement that the service member, who was not identified, died from wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device "in the vicinity" of Ayn Issa, the town in northern Syria where the Syrian Democratic Forces announced the launch of the "Wrath of Euphrates" offensive on Raqqa at the beginning of the month.

"The entire counter-ISIL coalition sends our condolences to this hero's family, friends and teammates," the commander of OIR, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, said in a statement. "On this Thanksgiving, please be thankful that there are service members willing to take up the fight to protect our homeland from ISIL’s hateful and brutal ideology.”

The statement said further information would be released "as appropriate."

The Pentagon has not been specific about the ground movements of about 300 U.S. troops in Syria, other than to note they're acting in an advisory capacity. Kurdish news sources have released photos of U.S. Special Forces spotted with SDF forces, which are composed of Arabs, Kurds and Assyrians.

The Syrian Democratic Forces are now within about 12 miles of Raqqa, a Pentagon spokesman said this week.